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My wife and I adopted an 83lbs Mastiff/Lab. A mix that is supposed to be generally tolerant of cats. This is proving not to be the case. I have read dozens of dog to cat introduction how-to guides. The main issue is that when the dog sees the cat, he immediately lunges. I hold him back (not easy) and my wife tries to redirect with treats and affection, but he is tunnel vision on the cat. There is no treat that interests him when this happens. Not even hotdog. He could care less and continues to lunge at the cat (behind a gate). So if I can't redirect with treats how in the world can we make progress? He also appears to get agitated at dogs that walk by the house. Again, there isn't a treat we've found that can redirect him. Please help, I will be devastated if we need to return him, but at this time I fear for the long term safety of my cat if we can't make progress. Thanks!!!
 

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My wife and I adopted an 83lbs Mastiff/Lab. A mix that is supposed to be generally tolerant of cats.
This seems to be the first problem when you chose this dog. It's good that you tried to do some research, but wherever you looked this up was misleading. There are no inherent/expected personality traits with any mixed breeds. Mixed breeds are crapshoots personality (and looks) wise, and I'm actually somewhat interested as to where you heard this. Second of all, even if this *was* a purebred dog that was said to be "good with cats", you need to take the dog's personality into account. Since he's an adult, I'm going to guess you adopted him from a shelter. Did you ask the shelter about him and cats? Or other dogs for that matter? Because unless they're a pretty irresponsible rescue, they should at least have inquired at your household, dog experience and other pets.

You say you don't want to return him, so I would suggest finding a good positive reinforcement trainer ASAP. However with a dog like this it's possible he will never be trustworthy around your cat, even if he stops lunging. And from your description, he might be dog reactive too. An 83 lb reactive dog is a REALLY big handful and responsibility. Honestly if I were in your situation and I just adopted this dog I would return him. He does not really fit into your life, and with a dog that size, he could easily kill your cat. It just takes one time, and that's not a risk I would want to take. Sorry you're in this tough situation and I wish you the best of luck.
 

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Thank you for your advice! I think we will continue to work on him for a few days to see if there is an rapid improvement and then make a decision. Yesterday was our first day so who knows. If anyone else has an opinion please lend it.
 

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I guess the big question is - do you believe the dog would kill the cat if he got close enough? How does the cat react to your dog?

What I've done in the past is try to desensitize the dog to the smell of the cat. Brush the cat - keep the hair and take a towel and rub the cat all over - and let the dog smell it. Put the hair and towel in or near where the dog sleeps.

Most of all, relax. You reacting to a dog that is reacting to a cat can make things worse.
 

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I guess the big question is - do you believe the dog would kill the cat if he got close enough? How does the cat react to your dog?
Kill maybe, harm, yes. Hard to say since we won't let him get that close yet. The cat is cautious but actually less freaked than I thought. We will try to keep giving them exposure and see if there is progress, otherwise I'm afraid the normally great dog has to go back. It will be heartbreaking.
 

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May sound silly, but maybe find a stuffed cat and cover it with the scent of your cat. Use that to desensitize. Patience and time, you'll get there.
 

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This sounds like an expression of prey drive more than anything else to me (with the cat, not with other dogs), which is most typically the thing that causes dogs to react in ways we don't like around cats.

Labs and the Mastiff group are both breeds/types that can have strong prey drive- the Mastiffs especially. Labs do have a reputation for "being good with cats" but IMO that's just them being the typical popular large breed dog of the decade and a lot of it is hype. I have seen many Labs with what I would consider ample prey drive to be a problem with cats, though plenty of them are more playful than actually in a catch-and-kill type of mode. Mastiffs are very catch-and-kill, as a general rule, some more than others. It is also totally possible he's a bully breed mix, if he isn't super huge, as shelters and rescues will often label bully breed mixed lab/mastiff, since it usually sounds like it could fit but doesn't carry as much stigma. Bully breeds are known for high prey drive to the point of being dangerous to small dogs and cats.

I agree with the above advice- it is totally possible he will never be trustworthy around cats. That kind of tunnel vision is not a good indicator that you'll be able to train it out, IMO, and not being able to be redirected by food (especially hot dogs, which I have found to be pretty universally high value to all dogs) is a bad sign. Prey drive-driven behaviors are some of the hardest to train out, and one of the few causes of aggression/boisterous behavior I will always try to downplay the effectiveness of training, because the reality is is that it comes from such a basal place in the dog's mind that it is usually something that you just can't work around.

It sounds like, at this point, he's more interested in the sight of the cat than the scent or sound. Giving him scent-covered things and getting him used the the scent would/will go a long way if he's fixated on the novelty of the cat, but not be very helpful or effective if its the movement of it that is illiciting this interest, which it often is.

I would suggest getting in touch with the rescue or shelter you got him from and explaining the situation, ASAP. You want to keep him, but he is a clear danger to your cat. Ask if they have a behaviorist on staff or that they can recommend that could help you, and let them know that this is non negotiable and if this behavior does not get better you're not going to be able to keep him. Presumably, they are a responsible, well run group who will do everything they can to help you, though there are some truly abhorrent rescues out there- at least you can try, though. I know that the place I got my last rescue from had a behaviorist on retainer who came on a house visit and helped her get settled with our dog aggressive current dog (who wasn't aggressive to her because she was a puppy)- something like that could help. Did the shelter do any kind of screening/intro's of other pets? Did they ask if you had a cat or have any idea of how he did with cats?

There is absolutely no shame in admitting this isn't the dog for you- not saying that's the only option or what you absolutely should do, just saying that you shouldn't feel bad/like failures if that does happen. These forums are filled with people who took on a dog and then realized that it was too much for them and had to give it back or rehome it, and then found a suitable dog and are now very happy. Not every dog is good in every home, and there's no use in denying that.
 
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